DMU Vice Chancellor makes a stand at 24-hour vigil

By Ilaina Skinner

In a very uncertain time in politics, De Montfort University is not afraid to tell the world how they feel and to stand in solidarity with victims of intolerance with the Vice Chancellor, Dominic Shellard, leading and organising a demonstration.

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For a full 24 hours starting midday on Wednesday, DMU held a vigil on campus to show support to refugees and people facing prejudice. Hundreds of students turned up throughout to show support and express their concerns.

The vigil came at an important time politically as the Vice Chancellor made very apparent. A matter of hours before the protest began, the British Government made a very controversial decision to close the scheme to bring unaccompanied child refugees to the UK. Mr Shellard described this decision as a ‘disgrace’, during a speech at the demonstration.

Donald Trump’s recent Muslim travel ban has caused controversy globally and DMU did not shy away from the topic. The flags of the seven Muslim-majority countries that Trump has attempted to get their citizens banned from travelling to the US were displayed to show that all countries are welcome at DMU and as an institute it does not discriminate.

During the vigil, there were over 100 acts performing, including poetry readings, raps and cultural dances. What became apparent throughout the night was that where university staff and students may all come from different backgrounds, what they share in common is a determination to have justice for humanity.

Students and staff had the opportunity to tie ribbons to the fence around the Hawthorn Building as a symbol representing prayers and hope being sent to those in need of it. There was also a ceremonial candle lighting to show solidarity. It was both a physical and spiritual experience for those involved.

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At about 11pm, Mr Shellard told the story of Mahatma Gandhi to show the importance of fighting political oppression. It was a story that involved hardships, prejudice and torment but one that ended in bringing together the divided people of India after the British occupation.

It was a tale that demonstrated the importance of peaceful and diplomatic protest when facing injustice. Mr Shellard reminded his audience to not turn a blind eye to victims facing intolerance with a powerful Gandhi quote: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”

The nature of the vigil itself was one of impeccable organisation and thought. It was a perfect example of how non-violent and diplomatic demonstrations can be successful in making a stand.  To keep the protesters going through the night there were blankets, outdoor heaters, free hot drinks and a hot vegan chilli served.

The Vice Chancellor made his intentions for the vigil clear; do not turn a blind eye to intolerance and that we are all citizens of the world.

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